Laughter is the Best Medicine

Rowan Atkinson on the International Appeal of His Mr. Bean: “He’s Largely Silent”

Is it, did you know, did you have a fear, I mean feel that you would be like this cool to so many generations? Like, you’re huge! Um. I’m huge. No not really. I suppose you don’t, you just, particularly when you’re young and you’re starting off and your finding your comic feet that you just want to have fun, you know. That I suppose is what drives you, and you think, I suppose with Mr. Bean in particular because he’s a largely silent character that there’s no doubt that he was slightly contrived. (Rachel laughs hysterically) To have, there he is. Um, he was slightly contrived to have international appeal, I suppose. Right because there’s no language barrier. Because it was based actually on a visit, on holiday, in Venice that I had in 1985. Quite a long time ago and I just remember noticing all the musical artists who were popular at the time, you know, the Duran Duran and David Bowie, and classical musicians, like Danny O’Bownbourn, and I thought how odd that musicians generally assume they have an international audience. (Rachel giggles lightly) Whereas, if you do comedy, you assume you’ve just got your country. (Rachel giggles)
And your kind of people who are going to enjoy what you do. And I thought, well wouldn’t it be fun, cuz I had already started exploring just doing purely visual comedy, whether I could, you know, do that, I’d explored it on stage, and I was interested in trying to put visual comedy through the character of Mr. Bean on TV. And, so that’s where it started. The first ones we did were in 1988, 89 and then it sort of grew from there, and now we’ve got this uh– Weird. It’s like it’s got
(crowd applauds) its own life. (applause drowns out remaining comments)

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